It feels SO good to sit down to write a review of my favorite show and be overflowing with love for it, like I’ve been so many countless times over the past fifteen years. We have nine episodes left of Supernatural, and all I want is to feel like this – grateful, inspired, in love, dreading the end. The relief is like a physical thing, to feel this way right now, as melodramatic as that might sound.
So, let me do some squeeing, because I’ve missed it! I enjoyed this episode by Davy Perez and Meredith Glynn so much that I just want to go scene by scene and savor it all over again.
THEN: (Moment of inappropriate giggling because they actually used the vampire Dean hiss in the ‘Then’ montage. Ahem. Okay, sorry.)
The opening is another musical montage, which seems to be a thing now for the Show, but it works especially well because the song is so damn fitting. “North to Alaska” is exactly where Sam and Dean are headed, and the song actually starts off with the lyrics “Big Sam left Seattle…” and something about his brother, and how perfect is that? Meanwhile, some poor guy named Leonard is losing at pool and losing his cool and clearly about to die. He loses, gets kicked out of the pool hall, falls in the dirt and can’t find his now-broken glasses ala the Lord of the Flies scene I’ve never gotten over and then gets run down by an 18 wheeler. In other words, quintessential Supernatural beginning.
As Sam and Dean make their way to Alaska, Sam texts with Eileen and Dean snarks about turning off the sound. Eileen is skeptical about this trek they’re on and so is Sam, but Dean insists they need to try, and is hanging onto hope.
Dean: It’s there, it’s gotta be. Chuck wants us weak, because he’s coming for us, Sammy.
So on they go (Baby might be down on her luck but apparently she can still drive all the way to Alaska, and the Winchesters are a whole lot better at getting through those Canadian border stops than I am most of the time even with their currently shitty luck!)
Sam’s asleep in the car like he often is in the best fanfic, and Dean of course wakes him like any big brother would, with a slap and a ‘Hey!’
Dean’s stopping for food, because he ate everything they had in the cooler while Sam slept.
Sam: (affronted) We’re on a budget!
Jared Padalecki has such a knack for making even a simple line so funny and so Sam, and I laughed out loud at that. The Winchesters are down to their last $4.60, so all they can get is a cup of coffee and a slice of pie.
Dean: Two forks?
I laughed again, realized I was thoroughly enjoying the episode, and became practically euphoric at the realization.
Sam gives Dean grief about not being able to have cheese and Dean gives him an affronted look right back.
Dean: Dude, Lactaid!
Me: This episode is everything!
Much of the episode – dialogue included – really did read like fanfic, and that is my highest compliment. It means the writers get the characters as well as we do, and that feels incredibly good. Sam and Dean and Cas and Jack were Sam and Dean and Cas and Jack!
Dean turns his 1000 watt smile on the waitress and they find out there’s a “magic pool hall” in the middle of nowhere and that people like poor Leonard don’t come back from it.
Sam: Now we know the down side – it might kill you.
Dean is much more optimistic.
Dean: This is my game – hell, our game!
He reminds Sam of all the memories they have of playing pool.
Sam: (frowning) Yeah, because we had to eat!
Me: Yep, definitely have read that fic.
Meanwhile, although the Impala apparently made it all the way to Alaska, she now has a flat tire in the parking lot, so their luck is still bad.
Dean at least knows how to fix a flat, and the Impala pulls up to the pool hall in the middle of nowhere, Lurlene’s. This too is classic Supernatural, a ramshackle building constructed in the midst of nothing else. It’s an instantly recognizable look and I’m going to miss it so damn much.
Dean to Sam: Relax, we might actually have some fun.
Evie the bartender (Hanneke Talbot) introduces them to Pax (Stephen Huszer, also an SPN alum), the hottie manager, who puts a battered coin on the table.
Pax to Dean: Go ahead, touch it.
Me: Where is that gif, fandom?
Dean does, and it apparently measures his luck.
Pax: About average.
Dean: Sounds about right.
Small quibble: That is not right, their luck has been way worse than “average” or “normal” or any of those things since Chuck intervened. The show can’t quite make up its mind how it’s considering what Chuck did to them, but it only makes sense if he cursed them with bad luck and that seems to be what they’re saying the majority of the time, so that’s what I’m going with. It also makes no sense that all their other learned skills were wiped away and they can barely walk down the street without dying, but both Sam and Dean remain really damn good at playing pool. But I’m not gonna quibble, just gonna go with it.
Dean: So when I win, can we split the luck?
Sam is still skeptical and doesn’t want Dean to do it, knowing what can happen if you don’t win.
Dean: I’ve been slinging pool cues since before you were born!
Sam: When you were four? What, between nap time and snacks?
I burst into laughter again, thanks to the awesome dialogue and Jared’s perfect bitchfaced delivery. As Robbie Thompson would say, Brothers, man. This is how you write brothers.
Dean refuses to be deterred, however. He gets serious for a second.
Dean: Look, you’re better than me at just about everything. I’m not mad – I’m proud. But I can wipe the floor with you when it comes to pool.
Again, I loved that dialogue. Only a parent figure can thoroughly recognize that your child is better than you at something and feel not an ounce of envy or resentment, but just pure pride and joy. That’s the part of Dean that helped raise Sam, and whose identity is defined by being Sam’s big brother and a parent figure to him. That line, so simple – and so perfectly delivered by Jensen Ackles, who completely understands this about Dean – rang so true that it made my eyes water.
Sam understands too, and reluctantly agrees with his big brother.
And then we get another scene that is straight out of fanfic – Dean and Sam in a pool hall, Dean getting clueless players to take him on by pretending to be bad at pool.
Dean to Sam: I dunno, Sammy, I’m a little rusty…
A woman seemingly takes the bait and the game is on. Sam watches from the bar while he chats with Evie, still trying to figure out exactly what’s going on here.
Evie: Everyone wants something…. And no one knows when to walk away.
After Dean wins one game, Sam shares what he’s found out.
Sam: This place sucks you in.
Dean understands, but wants to maximize gains and minimize losses ala “Dad’s favorite Paul Newman movie, The Hustler”. Sam doesn’t really remember, and it’s a call back to their childhoods and a reminder of just how much Dean worshipped their dad for most of his, and how Sam’s view was always just a little bit different, in part because he had Dean as a parental figure too.
Sam agrees to Dean playing one more game.
Also, Dean looks about ten years old here.
Dean takes on the cowboy, PBR (pro bullrider apparently).
The cowboy asks his name, and Dean smirks, pure Dean Winchester like we haven’t gotten to see much recently.
Dean: My name is Dean Winchester. And I’m gonna kick your ass.
He chalks his cue, shares a look with Sam, and they play. Eventually Dean has what looks like an impossible shot to make, and the cowboy says “double or nothing says you miss that shot.”
Dean: (assessing) You tryin’ to hustle me, Rodeo?
But the cowboy calls him on his cockiness, and Dean narrows his eyes and agrees. He pops the cue ball right over the ball that’s in the way — and makes the shot.
Sam and Dean exchange a look and Dean smirks.
What makes this scene even more ridiculously hot is that Ackles did that shot himself – in ONE TAKE. (Thanks to VFX wizard Adam Williams for that info)
Seriously, is he actually Dean Winchester now??
Dean’s coin absorbs the luck, glowing.
The cowboy, defeated, takes his coin and walks outside. Sam and Dean follow him out, because that’s who they are. Turns out now that he has no luck, he’s dying of cancer (again), coughing up blood and lighting up his last cigarette after playing and winning an extra year of life. Sam and Dean are both clearly disturbed by this, the cost of Dean’s win apparently.
Sam wants more time to figure this all out, whereas Dean reminds him that “we’re in a fight with God” and they need to get going to fix the bigger problem. They compromise on Dean taking Baby out for a spin to see if her luck is any better. (It’s not, and he doesn’t even get out of the parking lot).
Sam tries to talk the other patrons into leaving and taking what luck they have, but he’s unable to convince anyone. Even the guy who seems to be playing for more luck for his favorite football team mutters, “Just one more game…” Frustrated, Sam takes a look at the coin closely and – Smart Sam figures it out! It’s the goddess Fortuna (played to perfection by Lynda Boyd, a Supernatural alum from a prior season as a Djinn), skimming luck from the clueless players. And hottie manager? Turns out he’s her son.
The Winchesters use Pax as leverage, Dean holding a knife to his throat, telling the Goddess she’d better come out or they’ll kill her son.
Which is….alot of hotness in one frame tbh.
Fortuna: You probably could, his daddy was human… sorry, baby, but I can make more sons.
Fortuna is not interested in playing Dean again, saying she’s already read him.
Fortuna: You’re just a beach read – sexy but skimmable.
Dean (narrowing his eyes and looking like anything but skimmable): Lady, I’m Tolstoy.
Me: Damn right.
Fortuna smiles and turns to Sam, looking suddenly very interested indeed (and who can blame her, with Sam in that single layer black shirt and that slight scruff and that hair and….sorry…).
Fortuna: This one here, he could be interesting…
Dean is immediately in protective big brother mode, stepping out with a warning “No no no, uh uh…”
But Sam nods.
Sam: Fine. Yeah, I’ll play. But for the lives of everyone in here.
Fortuna does not agree, and Sam eventually has to agree to her terms.
Sam and Fortuna rack them up and begin to play, and the music makes it seem like we really are back in time in ‘The Hustler’, camera switching back and forth from close ups of Sam and Fortuna to lining up cue sticks and balls rolling into the pockets.
Damn, Sammy. Sam in that single layer black shirt, a look of fierce concentration on his handsome face…
Is it hot in here?
While Sam plays, Dean talks, telling Fortuna that they’re cursed by God – the real God. She has no affection for Chuck either, saying that humans initially praised the sun and moon instead of Chuck. He was pissed until he realized he could create those other gods to take the blame whenever bad things happened, and that’s still the case. And she’s still resentful.
Fortuna: Now God hides behind whatever religion has the best syndication deal.
Ooh, pointed, Show.
Dean tells her that they intend to go up against God, no matter the odds.
Fortuna: And when you lose?
Sam: We lose swingin’.
He looks at Dean before he sinks an 8 ball in the corner pocket.
Fortuna: You’re good.
Sam: I learned from my brother.
Me: Where are my tissues???
Sometimes art imitates life – a few years ago Jensen posted a photo of him teaching Jared how to play pool. Clearly at this point they are both damn good at it!
Fortuna is now intrigued by the brother’s preposterous plan to defeat God, and offers another game, double or nothing, because to defeat God they’ll “need the luck of heroes.”
Sam agrees, but not for heroes’ luck.
Sam: Not for more luck. For them. You have to let them go. Give back the luck you stole.
Fortuna: They don’t matter!
Sam: They matter to me.
Dean: They matter to us.
The brothers exchange a look, and Dean nods his agreement.
They’re 100% on the same page.
Sam and Fortuna play again, the atmosphere even tenser than before.
Although Sam is damn good, Fortuna sinks ball after ball, ending with “8 ball in the corner pocket”.
The ball goes in, and Dean sags in defeat momentarily, eyes closed. Beside him, Sam hangs his head, knowing that she won.
Dean (regaining some defiance): Well, we had to try.
Fortuna: That was stupid.
Even though they know they’re probably going to die from bad luck soon, Sam and Dean are determined not to just leave all the others behind. They decide to try to find a way to save them and kill Fortuna, still ‘saving people hunting things’, cursed with bad luck or not.
But before they can get in the car, the pool hall door opens and the other patrons come slowly streaming out.
Evie: She shut it down.
Evie: Because of you. She’d thought your kind had gone extinct.
Sam and Dean: Our kind?
Evie: Heroes. Like the old days.
There’s a brilliant shot looking up at the Winchesters, and inside I’m screaming YOU ARE GODDAMN RIGHT THEY ARE BIG DAMN HEROES, LOOK AT THEM!
NO SERIOUSLY, LOOK AT THEM!
Evie tells them that Fortuna had some parting advice: Don’t play his game, make him play yours.
The coins glow when they hold them, and when they get in the car, Baby purrs to life.
Dean (grinning at Sam) We’re back, baby!
I half expected Sam to grumble “don’t call me baby” even though of course he’s talking to the Impala.
They drive off, the Impala roaring up the road, all seeming like it should – which feels SO good.
Without any manipulation by Chuck, the Winchesters have been heroes all along. Even when he took most of their luck and skills away, they were still determined to save people, and willing to risk their own lives to do it. It’s not anything Chuck gave them or could take away from them; it’s who they are.
And that makes me happy. That’s my Show.
Meanwhile, Castiel returns to the bunker looking for Sam and Dean and finds the note Sam left him (which kicked off a fandom fury about the show’s insistence on spelling Castiel’s name wrong with double s at the end). I had to wonder why didn’t they text him or something, but honestly I love Sam’s handwritten note on the library table.
He answers one of the phones left in the bunker, and it turns out to be a small town sheriff’s deputy (Kahlil Ashante) looking for Agent Watt (presumably one of the Winchesters). Cas says this is another agent, and comes up with “Agent Lizzo” which made me giggle. Cas has good taste in music, clearly.
The deputy says he was instructed to call that number if they ever spotted a certain someone: Jack Kline.
Close up on Castiel’s face as he registers the name and reacts, murmuring softly, “Jack…”
Misha Collins did a fabulous job of putting so much emotion into just that small moment. In fact, everyone really brought their A game to this episode, and as a result I felt so much more emotion too.
The small town deputy (who also did a great job and was immensely likable in just his few minutes onscreen) sends Cas a video of why they’re looking for Jack. Cas watches in shock as Jack attacks and kills a doctor and then calmly sits down and eats his heart.
Soon Cas is on Jack’s trail, searching the doctor’s office, unceremoniously yanking off padlocks and finding a Grigori suitcase and sword. The plot thickens.
He meets up with the friendly sheriff’s deputy and gets some clues about where Jack might be.
Jack, a little ahead of him, tracks another Grigori – but ends up captured himself. The Grigori, enraged that Jack is killing his kind, begins to torture Jack, who refuses to answer his questions.
We find out that the Grigori doctor that Jack killed was feeding on the souls of people he was supposed to be healing (so clearly a bad guy) and that this Grigori apparently prefers children, so extra clearly a bad guy. We also find out that Death told Jack to go after them.
Just then, as the Grigori begins to torture Jack ruthlessly, Castiel appears and kills the bad Grigori guy.
There’s a moment.
Cas standing there, staring at Jack kneeling and bound.
Castiel (softly, like he’s almost afraid to believe it): Jack?
He unties Jack and helps him to his feet, and then sweeps him into a hug. Both Misha and Alex Calvert brought all the emotion to the reunion, so much so that I started to tear up again. It has been consistently clear that Castiel has loved Jack like a son, and that his death was a significant trauma for the angel. His joy at having Jack back in his arms was palpable.
Back at the bunker, Dean and Sam return from Alaska. Dean complains that they didn’t win any of the scratch off lottery tickets they picked up, but Sam points out that the Impala is running fine and their credit cards are working again. Oh, and Dean ate back to back double cheeseburgers without side effects.
Sam: She thinks we’re heroes – that we don’t need shortcuts.
And that, Show, is right where I like them! And puts all this luck versus normal versus whatever to rest once and for all. They’re the Winchesters. Just let them be who they are.
Castiel appears from the other room, and Sam and Dean realize right away that something’s up.
Jack walks out and stands next to Castiel, as Sam and Dean gape.
Jack (with signature wave): Hello.
Cas: It’s really him.
That’s enough for Sam. He crosses the distance between them in two long strides and sweeps Jack into a hug. Sam has felt paternal about Jack for a very long time, and grieved his death as a son, so his relief is clear – and Jared lets us see it.
Dean steps forward next, clasping Jack’s neck and looking hard into his eyes, searching. Jack, for his part, looks full of yearning, wanting Dean’s forgiveness and love, still full of guilt.
Dean hesitates, turns to look at Cas, who looks like he’s trying to convey all his faith in Jack in one silent expression. Satisfied, Dean looks back at Jack.
It was a short scene that didn’t need words, because all four actors can say so much without any. Dean has struggled with forgiveness – of both Cas and Jack – after the death of his mother at Jack’s hands. I will never ever think that isn’t understandable, and how just about any human would feel if someone killed your mother, by accident or not. I still think he is entitled to his anger and the complex feelings that he has as a result. He had accepted and loved Jack as a son, and he trusted Cas to tell him the truth about all things, and so Mary’s death left him with conflicted and overwhelming emotions, including anger. That’s okay. That’s completely understandable. But here he makes a choice to go forward with forgiveness, for both Cas and Jack. To accept Jack again and to trust Cas again. It was much more believable and meaningful here – understated, not dramatic, and all the more powerful because of that.
In the last few episodes, Dean has made it clear that he trusts Sam completely, accepting his assessment of a future without Chuck with “that’s good enough for me”, and here he shows that he trusts Castiel too, with the same acceptance. That sets the stage for the four to go up against Chuck united in these final nine episodes.
The four have beers at the map table, and talk about where Jack has been and why.
Jack: Every day, I wanted to come home. But I couldn’t. My grandfather will try to kill me. Again. He’s afraid of me.
Apparently eating the hearts are just the beginning of what Billie has instructed Jack to do, in order to make himself more powerful.
Jack: If I do exactly what she says, I’ll be able to kill God.
That was where most of us figured the Show was headed, so that didn’t come as a shock if it was supposed to. I’m still not on board with Jack being the one who saves the day at the end of the show, but who knows if that’s where we’re headed, so I’ll just reserve judgment for now.
Jack having to kill and consume to get more powerful has connotations of Sam and the demon blood drinking to get more powerful to kill Lucifer, and we all know how that went, so we’ll see how this goes. What is Billie’s agenda at this point? Do we trust her? Should Jack?
We’re headed into the show’s last ever mini hellatus, which hurts my heart to say. But I like going into it with some questions and some anticipation, after thoroughly enjoying that episode. I tweeted that the episode FELT like Supernatural – the suspense, the relationships, the emotions, the tiny bits of humor and occasional ewwws. This show is all of that, and it works so well when that unique combination is there. A big thank you to writers Davy Perez and Meredith Glynn, and to veteran Supernatural director Charles Beeson for making it look gritty and real and very Supernatural.
The episode had real emotion, some of which spilled out into the press interviews the cast did with TVGuide at that time, including Misha spontaneously hugging an indulgent Alex just like real life dad and son. Awww.
The guest stars were also wonderful, and most of them hopped on social media to check out the reception the episode was getting. Clearly they had a blast, as just about every single guest star who has ever been on this show has said.
Jared watched the show along with the fandom (and his family, including the dogs) and posted a photo. That hasn’t happened in a while, and it reminded me of the old days, when the cast was often on twitter watching and commenting along with us. Nostalgia…
All in all, it was a very good night. And much needed.
My Show is back – and that means I’ll be on the edge of my seat for the last nine episodes! Stay tuned! The Show is back mid March – and I can’t wait!
Caps by @kayb625
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